Lookalike Census forms prompt warning from state

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HARRISBURG — The state Department of Community and Economic Development is warning residents to not be confused by political mailings or potential scams that make reference to the U.S. Census.

“An accurate Census is a fair Census, and using the 2020 Census as a way to confuse and scam residents of the commonwealth is unacceptable,” said Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin.

Davin’s comments came in response to revelations that the Republican National Committee had mailed political literature to some Pennsylvania homes that included the term “Census” on the document.

According to a copy of the mailing obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the literature included a survey asking whether the resident was a supporter of President Donald Trump, along with other questions like:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the Democrats’ agenda to raise taxes, provide free health care and college tuition for all, open our borders to all immigrants, enact dangerous abortion policies, pack the Supreme Court, allow inmates to vote and disband the Electoral College?”

“Do you believe the national media has a strong bias against all things Donald Trump and Republican and fails to tell America’s voters the real facts about Republican policies, principles, goals and accomplishments?”

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Republican Party forwarded questions about the mailing to the Republican National Committee. In an email, a spokesman of the RNC said the “mailers are clearly marked that they are from the Republican National Committee.”

Casey Smith, a DCED spokeswoman, said the agency has only received reports of the mailing having been received by residents in southeastern Pennsylvania counties — Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery.

Gale Measel, chairman of the Republican Party in Lawrence County, said he was unaware of the mailings or any controversy about them until he was contacted by CNHI for comment about it on Friday.

Measel said he’d checked with state party officials and was told that such surveys “aren’t uncommon” and are used by both major political parties.

Dan Vogler, a Republican Lawrence County commissioner, said that he could find no evidence that anyone in that area had received political literature from the RNC that included the word “census” on it.

But he added that using the term “census” on a political mailing seems ill-conceived so close to the actual U.S. Census.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to confuse people, regardless of who does it,” he said.

Pennsylvanians can respond to the 2020 Census by mail or online. Census Day is April 1, and as that day gets closer, the possibility of scams is increasing, according to the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Census will not ask for information about Social Security numbers, bank or credit card information, the individual’s mother’s maiden name, or anything on behalf of a political party.

“If someone claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau contacts you via email, phone, or in-person and asks for any of this information, it is a scam,” according to the DCED.


Helpful tips to protect Pennsylvanians during the 2020 Census collection period:

• If you receive a survey or letter in the mail, check that the return address is from Jeffersonville, Ind.

• If you receive a phone call, you can call the U.S. Census Bureau at 1-800-923-8282 to verify whether the caller is an employee.

• If you receive an email or are sent a URL to respond to the census, make sure the website address begins with “HTTPS” and includes a lock symbol. If you receive a suspicious email or URL, do not reply, click links, or open attachments. Forward the email to the U.S. Census Bureau at ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov and then delete it. The U.S. Census Bureau will investigate and report their findings to you.

 • If you’re visited by a census worker, ask to see their identification. They should have an official identification badge with their photo, U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you have questions about their identity, you can call 1-800-923-8282 to speak to a local U.S. Census Bureau representative.

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